Society As Viscoelastic Liquid

There was a lot of push-back in yesterday’s elections: a new, conservative governor in Kentucky, a “gun-control” defeat in Virginia, a restroom reaction in Houston, a “sanctuary sheriff” defeated in San Francisco, and a pot-legalization defeat in Ohio, to name a few.

Longtime readers will know that “I never metaphor I didn’t like”, so here’s today’s:

When I was a kid, we had a toy called Silly Putty (for all I know, it’s still out there). It was a blob of pink goo sold in a little plastic egg. It was funny stuff: if you rolled it up into a ball, it would bounce, but if you just let it dangle from your fingers, it would sloooowly drip, like a liquid. In other words, it had a curious property known as “deformation-rate-dependent viscosity”.

Well, that’s what we saw yesterday: it appears that even now, there’s a limit to how quickly you can deform the American culture. It remains to be seen, though, if there are any limits on how far you can go if you take your time.

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  1. That’s exactly the property that Silly Putty had. That you should remember this stuff dates you terribly. What’s next? Play-Doh? Hula Hoops?

    I like posts like these. The science-to-politics analogies are interesting.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Bill. The older I get, the more I learn about the world and its history, the more I see these curious isomorphisms all around me.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    “Owl of Minerva” and all that, I guess…

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Esoteric errata point incoming.

    Long time ago my MD Dad told me that “aboard ships [circa late 50s, USN carrier CV-45] we used to get the stuff (Silly Putty) in five gallon cans.” He further explained the *original purpose* of the stuff was to “improve our grips” (full-palm and fingers).

    Another MD (the flight-surgeon for the Mercury Program) told me the same thing.

    I never researched the assertions though so …

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Troy says


    Your sesquipedalianism is top notch, too.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Troy says

    What’s next? Play-Doh? Hula Hoops?

    I’m gonna guess lawn darts and 8-track cassettes, or maybe the abacus. :)

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  7. antiquarian says

    The property of Silly Putty that I remember most vividly is that if you pressed it to newsprint it would come away with the mirror image of the printing on the S.P.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  8. antiquarian,

    It would be pretty amazing if the contact-produced image wasn’t mirrored.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  9. JK says

    Hi Henry … your comment got me to thinking about that [in]famous tintype of Billy the Kid. How it took over a century for somebody from the Winchester enthusiasts community to finally realize the image of the rifle was mirrored.

    Posted November 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  10. Was the Kid a lefty?


    Posted November 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  11. whitewall says

    Silly putty, Hula Hoops? If any of our female participants drop in they may remember crinoline dresses. Ah the good old days?

    Posted November 6, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink